Third in a Series: Cargill Weighs in on WIA Summit 10th Anniversary
By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Women in Agribusiness Media (August 3, 2021)
Next month we will host our 10th annual Women in Agribusiness Summit! In celebration of this milestone, WIA Today reached out to some long-time participants to ask about their experiences with the event. Join us September 21-23 in Minneapolis to make your own memories, and for those of you who have memories to share, you can add them to our list by filling out this brief form.
For this third Q&A in the series (see what Nutrien had to say in this first post, and Land O’Lakes in this second post), WIA Today spoke to Sheryl Wallace, president of North American Grain at Cargill, who also is Executive Sponsor of Cargill's Global Women's Network. Wallace also served on the WIA Advisory Board for five years.
Cargill, which is a global food corporation based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, was founded in 1865 and is the largest privately held corporation in the United States in terms of revenue. The company operates in 70 countries/regions across the agricultural supply chain and in food and ingredients, protein and salt, and metals and shipping. Its 155,000 employees work every day to nourish the world in a safe, responsible, sustainable way, committed to helping the world thrive.
Cargill has been a long-time sponsor of the WIA Summit, and this year is a platinum sponsor, indicating the highest level of support.
1). Thank you Sheryl and Cargill for joining us for the decade-long Women in Agribusiness journey. Can you please tell us how you initially got involved with the Summit?
I remember well the inaugural summit in New Orleans in 2012. My peers and I saw a growing need for women to have a forum and a place that was welcoming and encouraging of the role that women play in agriculture. The challenge we identified at the time was whether our companies would see it as “fluff” because it was women only. It was clear that we had tapped into something very real when more than 150 women attended that first summit. That moment strengthened my conviction and inspired me to become the advocate that I am today and envision the critical role that Cargill could play. Through the years, Cargill’s involvement has grown through corporate sponsorships, leading workshops, serving as keynote speakers, and being active in the global expansion of WIA.
2). How has your participation grown and/or changed over the years?
What started with just two businesses within Cargill sending women to the Summit has now grown and expanded to a point where we have participation from multiple Cargill enterprises all around the world. At the same time, we’ve become much more active in the planning and execution of major events so that we can share our learnings by serving as keynotes, on panels, in breakout sessions, and sponsoring Meet Ups in various cities. And now we’re preparing the next generation of women leaders by sponsoring women from our university partners to attend WIA events.
Our involvement in WIA is very much a two-way street: we are there to sponsor our talent to have this development experience and gain industry insights, and we are also there to share perspective and guide. That’s what motivated me to serve on the advisory board for five years and encourage other Cargill colleagues to do the same. Given our goal of achieving gender parity in leadership at Cargill, WIA provides a rare platform of convening the industry on substantial and relevant issues facing our sector while offering development workshops that may be of particular interest to women. We’re proud to have been there since the beginning and be a part of WIA’s growth.
3). What are the top three reasons you still support Women in Agribusiness Initiatives?
There are so many reasons I could name, but the most consequential in my view is the role that agriculture is playing in addressing some of the greatest challenges and opportunities of our generation, including climate change, food insecurity, and equity and inclusion, to name a few. Our view at Cargill is that agriculture is “how” we develop solutions for these very real issues. WIA is a convener that enables us to partner on these solutions with our customers, suppliers, competitors, and other stakeholders to drive change at scale. It’s going to take all of our best thinking, and we believe the biggest breakthroughs and innovations come from having diverse perspectives at the table. WIA is also a critical development experience and one of the ways we invest in our talent. It fulfills a critical gap by delivering high-quality content, networking, and bringing talent together to innovate and share ideas.
4). Please share with us a favorite memory of a WIA Summit.
I have so many wonderful memories over the past 10 years. One that stands out was a WIA Summit in Minneapolis where we raised money and awareness for breast cancer. We turned a lot of heads when this pink tractor made its way through downtown Minneapolis, navigating the busy streets to arrive at the Summit location on Nicollet Mall.
Another was walking into the ballroom of the first inaugural event and seeing nearly 200 women with a shared passion for agriculture, and a year later, attending a reception at the second WIA Summit where the size of the group had doubled to 400! Having spent 25 years of my career in agriculture and financial ag-related services where women aren’t usually in the majority, it’s a powerful experience to be surrounded and lifted up by other strong female leaders.
ABOUT SHERYL WALLACE
Sheryl Wallace is president of North American Grain for Cargill, a position she has held since 2019. She also serves on Cargill’s global Trading Leadership Team. Prior to this, she was corporate vice president, global leader of the company’s Risk Management Group (RMG) with fiduciary oversight of market, trade credit, and counterparty exposures and delivering competitive advantage through risk insights. She is a member of the Financial Risk Committee, the Finance Leadership Team, and the Commodity Risk Committee.
Before this, Wallace led businesses in Cargill Risk Management (CRM), an organization dedicated to structuring risk management solutions for global customers. From 2009-2012, she was based in Geneva, Switzerland. Wallace joined Cargill in 1996 as a commodity merchant in Iowa and spent the first 20 years of her Cargill career in trading and merchandising, sales, and general management in many locations, across several Cargill businesses.
Wallace is the Executive Sponsor of Cargill’s Global Women’s Network, serves as an Executive Committee Board Director and Foundation Trustee of the National Grain and Feed Association, and chair of the Ardent Mills Board. Previous service to the industry and community includes director of the National Futures Association, Corporate Council of Junior Achievement, Advisory Board for Women in Agriculture, and Tonka United Soccer Association. She graduated with a B.S.B. from the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota.